sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

washing merino fleece, another way

A few weeks ago, I finished up washing and sorting the beautiful dark chocodile brown merino fleece I bought from Janet Heppler at Nebo Rock Textiles (at Lambtown)... I'm still working my way thru figuring what methods are best for me and this one was a little different so I figured why not share :)

You may remember the fleece...



This fleece was much, much larger than previous purchases at 7.5#. Not that bad, but since I wash here at home in smallish batches (1-1.5#), and I'd only separated by locks for washing/scouring before, I knew I really didn't want to dig thru 7.5 pounds of fleece at once separating locks for washing. I did want to maintain lock formation for combing though.


Some big brains at Ravelry assured me I could easily wash the fleece in intact "chunks"-- tearing off large sections of the fleece, keeping that large bit intact and it would withstand the wash in a sink. Having pounds of fleece to spare, I gave it a good go... I tore off sections of the fleece, larger than my 14"x21" mesh laundry bags by about 15-20%, and carefully loaded the fleece "rectangle" inside. "Overstuffing"the mesh bag helped keep its shape and the locks pointing up.

I only put one "layer" of fleece inside each bag like this, unlike when I wash by locks and use several. Since the locks were vertical in this position, I didn't want to risk smashing them down or maybe making a felt welcome mat... even so, it ended up being a lot of fleece in one bag. I loaded up four bags' worth (about the same weightwise as in my lock washing ways) and washed them as normal (3x wash in hothot water + Dawn blue, 3 rinses in plain hothot with the final having a shot of kookaburra woolwash), laid it out to dry and found...


Lots and lots of washed, intact fleece. :)

Now I know this isn't an unusual method for washing (I think washing by locks is less common)... but here's where I kinda went off the deep end. Like usual.

All of the fleeces I've been washing at home have had a 35% loss in weight after washing-- they've all been covered, fine greasy fleeces so it's mainly a lanolin loss. The chocodile was no different; she went from 7.5# to about 4.8# after washing. 4.8 pounds of fiber is a lot-- probably 2 sweaters worth. I also have been paying close attention to my combs and knew that keeping all the staple lengths I comb about the same size means less waste in the long run-- even if I don't really care about keeping all the staples in the sliver the same length. Less waste is less waste though, esp. when the fleeces I start with are pretty much all beautiful overall.

So I took those large, intact "sheets" of fleece and separated clean locks out... by length. Measuring each staple like a crazy person.


The lengths ran from 3, 3.5, and 4". There were shorter lengths than 3", but I don't really enjoy combing locks shorter than 3" on my 4-pitch combs so those were set aside where I didn't really worry about keeping those in locks.

The idea behind this madness is that when I do get around to combing this fleece, I'll be able to have locks that are all the same size lashed onto the comb... and have less waste than if there was a large difference in what's left behind as shorter fibers. If I were truly ambitious (not generally a trait I hold), I would spin samples from each length and see if it held up differently, if the yarn acted differently if the fiber lengths were shorter or longer... but what'll probably happen? I'll spin the similar length slivers together and use all different lengths in one project. We'll see. :)

I also was interested in doing this because once separated, I could get an idea of the variation of lock length across an entire fleece. The judge at Lambtown used lack of variation along staple length in a fleece as a criteria... but it can't all be the same length across the entire animal (with my limited experience washing and sorting, it hasn't been). The difference is only an inch though, but since I had them all separated out-- why not look to see the variance by percentage?

counterclockwise from top left, clean weight:
3" -- 722 grams, 33%
3.5"-- 488 grams, 22%
4"-- 232 grams, 11%
indeterminate/less than 3"-- 750 grams, 34%
total: approx 2200g, or 4.8#

This wasn't a terribly scientific experiment :) The category of "indeterminate/less than 3" was necessary since pulling clean locks from the chunk of clean fleece resulted in fiber that was not intact enough for combing, too open, too thin to be an intact staple length...

(this isn't the same fleece, but gives you an idea what I mean by indeterminate)

In the indeterminate category are 3-4" staples so my percentage breakdown isn't too accurate, but still interesting.

When pulling locks from washed/clean fleece, I had a lot more "indeterminate" fiber than I do when separating out locks from greasy fleece. Even so-- the answer to my 2 sweater's worth "problem" presented itself. I'm not really interested in having 2 sweaters (or, worth of fiber) from one fleece-- but sending out part of it to be blended with another fiber means its not really quite the same anymore. At least in my brain :)

So I rounded up the indeterminate bag with 3" staples til it reached 2#...
(as always, coke can for scale)

...grabbed a pound of yak fiber from the stash (front 2 bags), and sent the whole kit/boodle off to Fibers4ewe for picking and carding into pindrafted roving.


It'll come back as about 3# of a 65/35 (or so) merino-yak blend, super warm. I'm left with prime staple lengths for combing here at home in the meantime... and you know me, I couldn't resist pulling off a sample. (My combs are overloaded in these pics. 4" staple length.)




Beautiful stuff!


(eta: CARDER SOLD, 8/30...)

ps! I may not be posting for a bit... I tried taking pics of my worsted, handspun wisteria in progress today and my workhorse oldie of a camera died on me in the middle :( I'm not too sad-- I bought it before my almost not a toddler anymore son was born and has done me well. It's also crystallized my decision to sell my Strauch Petite-- much as I love it, I don't use it... not like my combs and certainly not like I'd use a camera instead.

I'll probably be listing it on Ravelry or Craigslist later this week... asking $330 ($100 off new list price, as it includes the brush attachment). Have manual and all attendant items (doffer, cleaner, clamps, instructions...) I bought it in excellent used condition and it's been well cared for (if not much used!) here in my smoke free, pet free house. Would greatly prefer selling to someone in the Bay Area who can pick up or I can meet halfway along a BART line since I don't have a box for it and would have to charge the boxing and shipping fees from ups/fedex (but am willing to ship). I'll also toss in a giant bag of dyed superwash fibers I always meant to card on the petite but never got around to and/or some angora for blending if you're interested. My email is at the bottom of the page :)

Anyway! LMK-- off to wash more fleece. I have a definite off spot in not being able to have unwashed fleece in my house!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

crossing the line

It went almost to the wire, but I finished my 2 ravelympics goals :)

dk-ish 2-ply handspun, corriedale
dyed by Black Bunny Fibers in Obama fundraiser colorway, "Audacity"
approx 380 yd

It was nice to take a break mid-hat knitting and spin; the goal also lit a fire under me since this yarn and this one are a prize package in the Knitters for Obama fundraising drawing (item #43) which ends August 28! It was neat seeing how the same colorway and same fiber, spun at different weights, looks side by side:


I gave a little more thought than usual about the sport singles that I usually do when spinning; I split the entire roving length in half like usual, then for the first bobbin I tore one half into 4 strips. For the second bobbin, I tore the other half of the roving into eight lengths... so the first bobbin had longer color stretches than the second.


I like the result a lot; there are still stripes but breaking the colors up by length stripes will be an interesting knit. I hope the winner of the yarns thinks so too :)

I am also pleased as punch meeting my ten hat goal...

ten hats for the 'hats for homeless vets' Knitters for Obama Project
(just couldn't muster ten self timered shaky headshots :))

I used Swish Bulky for all but the cabled hats on the ends. Tika was rad enough to horse trade me some wool ease chunky for some Enchanted Knoll batts I had in the stash... totally has me thinking I could whip up that sexily named #28 (chunky cable) sweater from the fall vogue knitting in no time too, didn't know how fast WEC would knit up!

All in all, a good goal and a good time. Every time I'd update my hat total to the charity knitting thread on the Knitters for Obama forum on Ravelry I'd get a little cheer or love (1) and I'm all about the positive reinforcement :) My tiny contribution of ten hats PALES to the more than EIGHT HUNDRED items knit for homeless vets by members since the start of the project, which doesn't include the preemie hats and bibs knitting project the group took on in the primaries.

It actually was a tough goal for me to meet! Spindle spinning and the Monterey wool auction (and resulting fleeces I just *had* to start washing and prepping) were all out to get me, but I persevered. Mainly it was luck though, since this arrived the Saturday before the flame went out...

Pin drafted cormo, 3#
"Carla" from Cormo Sheep and Wool Farm, processed by Morro Fleece Works
originally 4.5#, 35% loss in washing/prep (same % I've been pulling at home)

I bought this fleece at Retzlaff and it was one of the last colored fleeces Shari at Morro processed before starting on her whites cycle. Six bags, eight ounces each of this...


and this...


I'm sort of... I don't know. The color and the coil prep is beautiful! but very close colorwise to the corriedale I've been combing from whitefish bay farm. It's silly (maybe), but I've wanted to have only one of each color on hand or in the pipeline fleece-wise... I've got a lot (a LOT!) of fleece on hand already, but this is my first overlap.

Gorgeous though.


We'll see. I think it may hang out for a while as I decide what I want to do with it; I wouldn't feel so skittish about it if space weren't such an issue and that I have decided on a project for the corriedale (that I keep combing and spinning)...


If you've followed my twitter you may have guessed already :)

Til then! Next time, I want to share how I (insanely) washed and prepped the gigantor merino fleece from Lambtown before the Ravelympics even began...

eta! for those of you who dig the threadless sheep shirts, they've reprinted the green grass/counting sheep "Insomnia" shirt this week and have started their $12 sale! just when i swore off all new tshirts :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monterey wool auction 2008

So I've had this crazy plan brewing for months now, and I didn't really want to talk about it since it really shines a light on the nut inside my head, but... so. After Retzlaff, I knew I loved the Cormo fleeces Sue grows and that I'm pretty much only buying colored fleeces... all of the colored 2008 fleeces were reserved or sold, except for three that were going to the Monterey wool auction at their county fair.

I didn't really think I'd go, looking for *one* fleece of those three that I had worked up in my mind that I was in true love with, but Tika said she and Jasmin were planning to go and I should hitch a ride...

Backing up forward though... Krista (yeah, Pigeonroofstudios' dyer extraordinaire ;) who will groan when she reads that I write it but I believe to be true) and I headed down from Oakland straight to Monterey, and what did our wondering eyes see when we got there?




Yeah. Tables of fleeces.

Now, I know for some of you local to big wool shows and fests this is like, not a big deal but for me-- dude. I've never seen over a hundred fleeces in one place before, and I was floored. Unfortunately the wool judging was the weekend prior, and I'd liked to have seen it as much as I liked watching at Lambtown. Although, every fleece was gorgeous-- really. Lots of entries from growers I'd bought from (Sue Reuser of Cormo Sheep and Wool, Janet Heppler of Nebo Rock Textiles-- no website), and others I hope to know in the future ;)

Amidst it all, I found The One I had trekked all this way for...

left: Henna, reserve champion for solid color other than black
right: Aly, champion for solid color other than black
both Cormos from Cormo Sheep and Wool

So after pawing, pinging, and digging thru these bags of wool, Tika, Krista and I settled in to our seats with our bidding cards and waited... The fleece is auctioned off, and you bid on the price per pound you're willing to pay-- some fleeces were monsters at 13#, most were less than that. I mapped out my fleece's actual cost before the bidding began...

IMG_1438 know, so in the heat of the moment I'd know exactly what I was paying in total. And it really is heat of the moment-- I took two short videos on my camera of the auctioneer here and here so you can get a sense of how awesome she was. It's been years since hearing my heart in my ears with such anticipation, but still staying within the budget I've been saving up for months I can call "Henna" mine.

(most accurate color)


Caramel, 4.5" locks I can't wait to lash onto my combs... man.

And, a serendipitious love came home with me too...

Corriedale x Rambouillet true black, "Kali"

I'd told myself that if I couldn't bring the caramel fleece home, it would be a true black-- and goodness, both are sitting on my floor begging to be washed right now :) The black-black also has a nice length for combing...


Really hard to see the fineness of crimp in such a dark fleece, you can kinda see it towards the edges.

After the fleece rampage, I headed back to Krista's car to drop these off and pick up the two bags I brought in for Morro Fleece Works to process...


I bought three partial Cormo fleeces from Nancy Ortmann in MT, and while they are gorgeous, they were uncovered and I've made a pact with myself only to wash covered fleeces at home. (Excepting a colored Polwarth, if I can find one next year.) They really weren't dirty though...


...just minor chaff. I also wanted prep done I really didn't want to do here at home-- I am having the middle and left fleeces (dark grey + dark brown black) blended together, and the right cormo (that had the softest hand of the three after I washed up samples at home) blended with about a pound and a half of baby alpaca for maybe a 50/50 blend.

Dark brown baby alpaca...


Both blends should be nicely heathered and evenly blended, something I can't do reliably here at home. I've also decided to only use mills when I can't do something at home now, so pretty much for picking and blending on a poundage scale. I can hang with my drumcarder for a few ounces worth, but more is really not something I enjoy much lately.

I love the job Morro does, and I'm anxiously awaiting the grey Cormo I dropped off there at Retzlaff, but I really do enjoy prep at home and the mill cost adds onto the cost of the fleece in an exponential way (that I can avoid, with as many tools I have here myself.)

We'll see ;) I have a feeling that with ALL the natural colored wool I have out being pindrafted all mills right now (4 batches of at least 3# each), I may be destashing some since I live in a shoebox and fiber is... big. Another we'll see. ;)

Meanwhile, back on the farm... the wool auction was great! A really fun time, and some fleeces went for a steal (getting only one minimum bid), even some of the champions. It seems that the naturally colored wools were what were sought this year-- there were some breathtaking whites that the three of us almost felt sorry for when they didn't get bid on at all. I didn't even look at whites myself in the preview... but then again see above, I'm nuts and went for ONE. With a plan of attack ;)

(pic just cos i can't get enough of this color!)

Just for those thinking about going to the Monterey wool auction sometime in the future (this is all stuff I wondered about the weeks prior)-- they open the furthest right gate (Gate 4) for the wool auction and you don't have to pay admission. They were open for the preview by 10:30am when Krista and I arrived, and behind was the handspun competition with gorgeous skeins and textiles, along with interesting displays of grist across wool breeds.

The fleeces are judged earlier in the week, either in their breed class (merino, romney, cvm, etc.) or by blood class (fine combing, 1/2 blood combing, 3/8 combing, etc.) The blood class fleeces generally don't list the breed of fleece, though some growers include cards with info like that in the bags holding the fleece. At the auction, the breed classes are auctioned off first, then the champions, market wool (all whites), then colors-- solid black, solid other than black, variegated. At the end is the mohair auction. Sometimes the fleeces you're interested in most don't come up til last, hard choices to make ;) The preview tables were set up in the same order as the bidding so you could see which order they were going in by your bidder's book-- a little confusing for me at first but worked out okay in the end :) Once the auction's done, you can pay and they take everything-- cash, checks and cc; I was worried they wouldn't take cash but yay :)

And once the auction's really all done and you've dropped all the fleeces off at Morro that you aren't packing home...

Jasmin lost in wool, Tika taking a picture I hope doesn't go up anywhere get to see the rest of the fair. Which was a lot of people, attractions, and food...

(officially a blogger. pictures of food.)

I don't think I've ever turned down a funnel cake in my life, not about to start now! :)

This was the best county fair I've ever been to... lots of animals (alpaca, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, etc.) and if you're lucky, they love you back.


Awesome time!

Til then, and next year's auction too ;)

Monday, August 11, 2008

ravleympics update (and stall)

How's your Ravelympics knitting going? Originally, my goal was to knit ten hats for the Homeless Veteran Charity knitting project (hosted by Knitters for Obama) and spin a 4 oz skein of dk-weight to be donated for a prize for the KFO drawing. I think I underestimated how many hats I can knit...

four hats, three days

...a good thing! :) Except that I have been just a tad distracted the past few days-- one bad (he's fine), and one really, really good.

Kundert pinwheel spindle, zebrawood and wenge 1.4oz
exclusive design to The Bellwether

When Amelia posted her Kundert shop update to ravelry I browsed, totally not expecting to buy anything since I really haven't been able to catch a good rhythm in spindle spinning-- but this pinwheel kundert just caught me and wouldn't let go. I actually really like the relatively giant whorl (3.5"), it doesn't feel too dainty so I'm not scared of it.

With the help of Amelia's Spindling: The Basics book I was able to make some passable yarn...


...although I don't know what to do with it now :) I just slid it off of the spindle, I'm not quite sure how to wind it on there properly to begin with... lots to learn. I used some of the latest Black Bunny Fibers fiber club shipment to get me started:

BBF Corriedale, "starburst"

The colors are just so happy and the fiber seemed a good match for me in learning this whole new way of spinning. I have to admit I have since put it away and started spinning the baby alpaca/merino from the last-last BBF shipment on the Kundert-- while I was spindling I kept thinking that I'd have to really love a fiber, really want to spend lots of time with it in my hands and fingers if I were to complete a project with it.

That's not coming out right. It's not that I have to really want to finish a fiber or project to spin it on a spindle, but that I think I'll be choosing fibers that I want to get in as much quality time as I can when spinning them on a spindle. I'm amazed at how much more attention I pay to the process and fiber with the spindle-- but of course that may just be because I'm new at it :)

Til then and good luck :)

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Ready for Ravelympics?

Swish Bulky


I think I do well under thumb of timetables... knowing I probably wouldn't be able to do much else than hats or prize pack spinning for 16 days starting Friday, I managed to comb a bunch of corriedale, finish washing and sorting the chocodile merino fleece (post in itself) and bang out a pair of rpm's in handspun...

handspun rpm with minus one mod
(subtract one st from original CO # and knit rnd 1 continuously til length desired)

I felt a little odd, knitting my own pattern but eh :) I have wanted to try the minus one spiral idea for a long time-- a poster on Knitter's Review posted about it shortly after rpm first appeared (and KR's search function is failing me so I can't properly attribute it), and the idea has been !!! in the back of my mind since. I'm sure I'll get over the !!! in 16 days, working ten spiraling hats in that time, but we'll see :)

I couldn't help but get all excited over getting a good closeup of the yarn...


It's hard, the black + holographic glitz + purple/magenta sari silk. As fun knitting as spinning-- EnchantedKnoll's "blackbird" series batts (black superwash merino + color in glitz and silk) sing to the liberace slice of my soul. (I just noticed Josette is offering free shipping on +$75 orders now... she already has great prices!)

I also started my grandmother's now-yearly holiday afghan gift...

"All About Aran" afghan by Janet Szabo

This free pattern on the knittygritty site was perfect for the 20 balls of Elann Superwash Merino Seconds in Espresso I recently picked up for a steal. (Anyone in blogland want to destash/trade for a bag or more of this, plmk! A bigger afghan would be great.)

I'm getting a somewhat early head start this year... knitting in strips instead of squares to cut down on seaming, and only using the cabled square (5) patterns instead of the "filler" stitches. Three squares out of 20 isn't bad, but not great-- wanted to finish a few more before Ravelympics.

Also wanted to finish spinning some 3-ply sock yarn from my last dye for fail:

Superwash merino, "loupe"

Mainly this was a problem of me trying on my brand new extra crazy super high speed whorl on the Matchless (yay! I have all the whorls now! boo! I pretty much only use one of them!) and not being able to get it off for three days. Did get it off with some radioshack ptfe help, eventually :)

I'm sure there's more, but I'm going to sneak in some corriedale worsted spinning before the olympics kickoff, so moo til then!

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